Takumi Sasaki, Nikkei staff writer
The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission on Friday decided to institute new flexible catch limits for tuna based on progress in restoring stocks of the fish. The new rules are to take effect as early as 2019.
Stocks of Pacific bluefin tuna, which is used for high-end sushi, such as otoro (fatty tuna) and chutoro (medium fatty tuna), are being depleted due to overfishing. The WCPFC aims to more than double the current parent bluefin tuna numbers to about 40,000 tons by 2024.
Japan originally called for catch limits to be made flexible, to reduce the impact on fishermen, and the proposal was accepted by the commission. Under the new rules, higher catch limits will be considered if the probability of achieving the goal exceeds 75% based on resource surveys. Catch limits will be reduced if the probability falls below 60%.
Catch limits will be kept unchanged for 2018. Japan’s annual catch quota is 4,007 tons for small fish weighing less than 30kg, and it is unlikely that quantities in the market will change significantly soon. Prices of Pacific bluefin tuna are likely to remain high for some time.
On the other hand, WCPFC decided that it will expand the current catch quotas for bigeye tuna, which is widely used as lean meat at conveyor-belt sushi restaurants and other establishments, and bonito, as scientific research into this fish shows plentiful resources.